The Nanton Veterinary Clinic has confirmed three new cases of West Nile, totaling six cases they've seen this year.

Dr. Stephen deGraaf with the clinic says, one of the horses had to be euthanized.

"The first one we saw was August 20, and we weren't sure what to make of it because we hadn't seen any yet. Then I saw two down towards Carmangay where we tested four horses and two came back positive. So then the three now, we just got test results yesterday (Wednesday) from horse we saw on Thursday, Sunday and Monday."

He says, these three new cases were near High River, Cayley and south of Nanton and are a good reminder for horse owners to make sure their animals are vaccinated for the West Nile virus.

Dr. deGraaf says, this is an unusually high number of cases and is the first time he's diagnosed West Nile in his nine years of practice.

"West Nile is transmitted by one particular species of mosquito," He says. "The mosquito at 18 degrees Celsius takes 30 days to reach maturity and be able to transmit. At 30 degrees, it takes less than a week, so with the hot weather we've had this summer, even though it's been drier, it's been better for the development of the mosquito which bites the birds and then transmits the virus from birds to horses."

He says, as of Saturday, September 1, there were 27 confirmed cases throughout Alberta, which he expects to have doubled by now.

Symptoms of West Nile included uncontrolled twitching and ataxia, Dr. deGraaf says.

"Ataxia is kind of the drunken sailor walk. They can be weak in the legs, look like they're lame, they can appear to be paralyzed in part of their body. Sometimes they're just down and can't stand."

He adds, the virus can show up in many other ways such as low energy, being less responsive than usual, a change in appetite, or even appear as a colic.

Dr. deGraaf says, that approximately 35% of serious cases may need to be euthanized, but most horses will make a full recovery, though it may take several weeks, or even months to return to normal.

 

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